Confident Newcomers in the U.S.

After almost 20 years of stagnant markets, since 2005 the U.S. solar thermal market is exploding. According to the official governmental statistics ( the market rose by 77 % in 2006 to 111,480 m2 (78 MWth). After many years of winter sleep the local industry is waking up. Interesting and self-confident newcomers enter the stage. Solar Skies Mfg, LLC, for example. Randy Hagen and John Drown – two businessmen from Minnesota, one of the northern states of the U.S., – founded this collector manufacturing company in 2006. They invested a multi million US$ sum in a flat-plate collector factory covering 20,000 ft2 in Starbuck, Minnesota. “We are building up a distributor network across the U.S. and internationally – looking closely to Italy, Spain and Germany,” says Drown on their sales strategy. “We are already the largest seller in Wisconsin and Illinois, which are both great solar states in our backyard.” Power Partners is another new collector manufacturer. The company, based in Athens, Georgia, buys fins from the manufacturer AET in Florida, which has just improved its absorber high frequency welding technology to be more energy efficient. “We signed a license agreement with the Californian collector manufacturer, so we manufacture their design in our factory,” explains Scott Childs, the commercial operations manager at Power Partners. Sales of the new lightweight collectors with a polycarbonate cover will start in the second half of this year. “We have a big factory, so we mainly go for high volume, commercial applications and utilities”. Through the core business of Power Partners – the production of pole-type distribution transformers for electricity – there is already a relationship with utilities. New entrants can also be found among the heater manufacturers, for example the company Heat Transfer Products in Massachusetts, which has been selling a solar water heater with an integrated modulating burner under the name Phoenix Solar for the past year. “We sold around 300 units in only one year. Solar is the fastest growing segment of our product range,” sums up sales manager Steven Wilson the experiences with the solar market. Phoenix Solar can be integrated into combined space and water heating systems. Heat Transfer also offers complete solar systems with an Asian vacuum tube heat pipe collector and a controller from Germany. The controller manufacturer IMC Instruments from Wisconsin seems like a newcomer, but it is not. The founder and CEO Louis Frias started producing solar thermal controllers back in 1978 and sold them under the brand name of Solargold, which disappeared after 1986. For 20 years Frias continued to run his business manufacturing industrial temperature and airflow measuring and logging and control instruments for many industrial processes. In 2006 he returned to the newly re-emerging solar thermal market and began the development of a new series of hi-end controllers, beginning with a product line under the name of Eagle Sun Controls. Further information: Heat Transfer Products: IMC Instruments: Power Partners, Inc.: oder Solar Skies Mfg, LLC:


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